Biometrics in industry

November 2007 Access Control & Identity Management

The construction industry, characterised by harsh environments and labour contracting issues, has placed unique requirements on access control and time and attendance (T&A) solutions. The development of a fully integrated access control and T&A solution that can address labour costing issues unique to construction has become critical for managing labour costs.

The greatest advancement in the access control and T&A industry is the successful integration of biometrics, online T&A systems, turnstiles and access control software. According to Philip Platt, head of sales at Johannesburg-based Time & Data Systems (TDS), one of the benefits of such a solution is the cost saving, "Users that run integrated online biometrics systems on a staff complement of 1000 people, can expect monthly wage savings of up to R80 000. Our installations at four different sites indicate these same results."

The key to these savings is Time & Data System's fully integrated T&A solution which provides the ability to continually customise access control and T&A to meet changing client requirements.

The growing popularity of fingerprint-based biometric access control is due to its proven ability to save money. Biometrics virtually eliminates the losses caused by unauthorised access - a problem that has cost millions of rands in wage fraud each year in the construction industry. "The use of Sagem fingerprint has recorded bottom-line savings on total wage costs of over 20%," says Platt.

These savings come from TDS's ability to factor in absenteeism, expired red cards, the elimination of double-pay as a result of false leave, as well as time-zoning capabilities. "This is where one really gets the massive savings - by closing all these loop holes, wage costs are dramatically reduced."

TDS provides activity-based costing (ABC) to the construction industry in southern Africa and offers a T&A system that has been developed from the ground-up for the contracting industry. Time-Data's T&A product allows complete integration from site to payroll and accounting systems at head office. The company supplies and services over 400 construction, engineering, mining and gas sites throughout Africa and the Middle East.

In addition to the costing functionality, the company also offers a built-in safety statistics module, allowing comprehensive reports on whether sites meet standards as set by government for both safety and equity.

The successful implementation of fully integrated access control and T&A technology has, however, not come without challenges. The biggest challenge has been overcoming the resistance to the switchover to biometrics from bar code and proximity cards. This is mostly due to perceptions that biometric systems do not work in harsh environments.

Despite these initial perceptions, TDS has converted clients to fully integrated systems that not only work, but also save the industry millions in terms of labour costs.

For more information contact Philip Platt, Time & Data Systems, +27 (0)11 781 5123,,

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